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Seas Outside the Reef: A Novel Paperback – October 1, 2000
Emily De Soto, a stunning 34-year-old, arrives in Key West in 1994 full of secrets and anxieties. Fourteen years earlier, she immigrated to Miami from Cuba, leaving behind her new husband, political philosopher Raul, whom she hasn't seen or heard from since. Her family, however, has heard news, and Emily is on hand to help smuggle Raul into the country. While she's waiting for a man she barely knew in her youth, Emily meets Harry, a handsome and reticent sailor. She falls deeply in love with the blond American and soon has to choose between the two very different men. Brackenbury expertly weaves together the viewpoints of her three main characters, then adds a first-person point-of-view from a seemingly objective source: Harry's mate, Martha. A pragmatic soul, Martha is deeply touched and altered by what she witnesses that muggy, languid summer. Sensuality abounds in this lyrical novel, yet each lush description of this colorful seafaring community is laced with mystery and danger. Kristin Kloberdanz
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
From the Publisher
KEY WESTAN ISLAND IN THE STREAM OF LIFE AND DEATH
Key West is an island of many peoplestourists, artists, writers, and celebrities, not to mention the locals, the conches, who stay there year-round, as if dog-paddling in the stream and waiting for something to change. And of course there are the Cubans, the people seeking refuge in Florida, who arrive one at a time or one small boatload at a time, always in the midst of night.
Theres something dangerously seductive about Key West, something that attracts people to its shores, to bask in the tropical heat, the spectacular sunsets, the boats, beaches and bars, and each other. Theres also something seductively dangerous: warm breezes can turn to storms, romance can turn to hearthache, and a boat ride can end in disaster.
This is the Key West found in Rosalind Brackenburys Seas Outside the Reef, a sensuous, lushly written novel of love and politics, sailors and tourists, locals and illegal Cubans, danger, sex, and death. It is the story of Emily (or Emilia) De Soto, originally from Cuba, who has come to Key West with a mission: to help smuggle in her Cuban husband, Raul, whom she hasnt seen for fourteen years.
But Key West can be as unpredictable as the human heart, and before Raul arrives, Emily has time to fall in love with a local sailor, a man with a weak heart and a strong suit of private demons. When Raul shows up, Emily finds herself battered by emotional and political crosswinds. Before the novel ends, one of these men will claim her loyalty, and the other will die.
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The Key West setting and range of colorful characters is of course familiar to me since I live here, and that added to the other elements. The author's personal knowledge of boating details adds both to the charm and then to the tension when the storm appears. Finally, the Cuba/Key West connection plays an important role in the story and now is relevant again in real life.
Poetry within prose: Especially in the early chapters, there were many sentences which were not complete sentences. This bothered me until I concluded that this was Ros' way of incorporating her poetic impulses into a prose format. Once I viewed it that way, it worked, whether that was her intention or not.